80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
1901 ASV Translation:
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
There are no textual variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
I. In the larger picture of the entire chapter, there have been several major shifts of focus in the material. We have arbitrarily called the unit we are currently studying "Paragraph # 5" because it contains the initial statement regarding the birth of the promised son in 1:57 and it concludes with the statement (in the verse before us) about his growth until the day he began to accomplish his adult task as predicted by Gabriel.
II. However, in the unit from 1:57 to 1:80, there were some special foci (sub-paragraphs, if we could call them that).
A. 1:57-66 -- in this sub-unit we have both a record of the actual birth and the reaction that it created as well as a special, rather intense, focus upon the issue of what he was to be named.
B. 1:67-79 -- in this sub-unit we have the Spirit-produced prophecy from Zacharias.
1. This sub-unit has three major parts also.
a. The first part is brief: it introduces the words of Zacharias as divine prophecy (1:67).
b. The second part has a particular focus upon the promised "salvation" of the people of God (1:68-75).
c. The third part has a particular focus upon the place the new-born son was to play in the laying of the foundation for understanding of that salvation by the people of God.
2. This sub-unit is obviously a deliberate record of the special prophecy so that the readers/hearers would be able to plug the birth of this son into a legitimate place in the bigger picture of a part of God's overall plan.
C. 1:80 -- then, at the end, we have this one-verse sub-unit that simply sets our consideration of John aside so that we may go to the next major issue -- the birth of the Greater Son.
I. Luke's Conclusion of the "John" Material.
A. Should not simply be passed over for a couple of reasons:
1. It is a part of the "every word of God" by which men are to "live" (Matthew 4:4).
2. It has a "mirror image" in 2:40 at the end of the birth narrative about Jesus.
a. As the initial "image" that is followed by a "mirror" later, it stands to reason that there is something going on.
b. Clearly, at least part of the "something that is going on" is an attempt by Luke to put his material together in similar units.
1) He did this with Gabriel's appearances to Zacharias and Mary and made the two records "bounce off of" each other by comparison and contrast.
2) Now he is doing the same thing with the birth narratives, and his effort is made more plain by the "image" followed by a "mirror".
B. Is a revelation of the meticulous planning of Yahweh, Elohim of Israel, in the outworking of the Great Plan.
1. All plans, great or small, require active planning and the setting of certain wheels into motion so that, at the proper time, the various results of all those "wheels" will come together to produce the Objective.
2. In chapter one, Luke intentionally established the primacy of "prophecy" by the Planning God in which He revealed bits and pieces of the Plan ahead of time so that those to whom the prophecies came might enter into the "life" that faith in the Plan yields.
3. The particular focus of the events of chapter one, in respect to the "prophecies", is upon the role of a "preparer".
a. As we said, all plans require the setting of certain wheels into motion.
b. One of the "previously unveiled" (prophesied) aspects of the Great Plan was that, at the right time, a "Preparer" would come whose activities would be the combining of all of the various "wheels" to bring them all to the proper place at the same time.
c. The supernaturally birthed son of the barren woman was going to be this "Preparer".
1) His identity as a supernaturally birthed son of a barren woman was, itself, a previously given "pattern of truth" (he was the end of a long chain of special sons whose mothers had been barren until they came along).
2) His identity as a "Preparer" was also a part of a "predicted" pattern.
3) In this identity as a "Preparer", however, he was not the end of the chain: Elijah is the final "Preparer".
C. Has these parts:
1. The "child grew".
a. No doubt a reference to the development of his body from infancy to adult stature.
b. Also, however, probably an oblique reference to the incipient development of the Great Plan as it included this particular "wheel".
c. The people, at his birth, began to wonder how he was to "turn out" and they were going to have to wait for thirty years to find out. [That's fine for the ones whose health and vigor would preserve them for the next 30 years, but many would live and die with only the question -- and no answer.]
2. The child "waxed strong in spirit".
a. The word signifies a gathering of a certain type of "strength".
1) It is not the kind of strength that comes naturally out of inherently placed capacities [capacities such as muscle and bone structure that naturally develop strength as they are used and tested].
2) Nor is it the kind of strength that results in the final victory.
3) Rather, it is the kind of strength that comes out of a special, focused kind of manipulation of what is available so that it is a "focused strength" that has resulted from the development of special wisdom-skills.
b. The verb is passive; thus, indicating a work that is being done within him but not by him.
c. That it was a growth in strength in "spirit" is anticipated by the prediction that he would be filled with God's Holy Spirit from his mother's womb.
d. The phrase, then, signifies how the Holy Spirit specially worked in John so that, as his body grew, as his mind grew, as his understanding grew, his ability to relate to God's Holy Spirit so as to be able to be the Mouth of God to the people of God also grew. This was no "Samson" upon whom the Spirit came with "power", but was left without understanding so that his choices on a day to day basis were full of foolishness. This, rather, was a man who was instructed by the indwelling Spirit on the principles of relating to the spirit so that the outward production of activities would have the stamp of the Spirit upon them.
3. The child "was in the deserts until the day of his showing unto Israel".
a. The "deserts" were not "waterless places" as our term often implies.
1) The "deserts" were the "uninhabited places" as "deserted of people".
a) There is the implication here that Zacharias and Elizabeth did not actually live "in" a town/city, but at the very least, on the outskirts.
b) There is no telling whether, when John reached an age at which he was able to leave the home of his parents, he moved further away from the inhabited regions, or whether the home was already pretty much isolated.
c) The location of the home is not really the point.
2) The "deserts" signalled an almost complete isolation from the degrading influences of the "culture" which "people" always impose on those around them.
3) John was made strong in spirit without having the interruptions of the chaos of the "people". He was, in a sense, a "hot-house production", a plant grown without the wind, the scorching sun, the competition of the weeds, and the absence of fertility of soil. He was a "prepared" Preparer.
b. His "showing" was the "public manifestation" of his identity.
1) His declared purpose in life was to "turn the hearts of the people" so that they would be prepared for the coming of the Lord.
2) At some point, he began to preach and draw crowds and see repentance on the part of his audiences.
c. His showing was "unto Israel" -- the people whose name means "to struggle with God for blessing" (an echo of Zacharias' "Blessed by Yahweh, Elohim of Israel).